Disrupted Divas, Conflicting Pathways
This ethnographic point-of-view documentary looks at the lives of socially marginalized women singers and dancers, referred to as tawaif, in three communities in North India. These women of the courtesan/red light districts are part of a tradition of divas, by virtue of their identity and historical contributions as court entertainers. However, their status in society has fallen, due to historical and more contemporary, pragmatic disruptions that they encounter, negatively impacting their economic situation, often forcing them into prostitution.
Are there options? That is, can tawaif's choose to relate, if only marginally, to a public that no longer respects and supports them? Or do they retreat from mainstream public and only operate within the realm of the counter-mainstream, often entangled in a cycle of crime and sometimes life-threatening exploitation? There is a ray of hope and empowerment for these women as grassroots performing artists, being supported by new, non-exploitative patronage.
(Amie Maciszewski, US/India, 2010, DVD, 46 min)
Co-presented with the Smart Museum of Art.